Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Island

The Island (Director: Michael Bay)

Bay's resume is filled with the dumbest films known to man, starting with Bad Boys and its even worse sequel. Then there's The Rock, which I grudgingly allow as good, but not because of him. Then there's Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. Those suck. Hard to believe, but this is only Bay's 6th film. That's productive for ten years, but his movies are so overblown and he gets so much criticism you'd swear he's done more. The Island is written by "Alias" team Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci from a story by Caspian Tredwell-Owen, who also collaborated on the script. This is Michael Bay's first movie without producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

It is an understatement to say that I have been critical of Michael Bay in the past. Searching our archives, I have cheap-shotted him or downright deconstructed him no less than 8 times since we started this blog in early 2003. If you're interested in the hit list, start with my July 26, 2003 review of Bad Boys 2, then my 2003 Worst List which includes that film, a post about confusing action scenes, a follow-up post where I can't resist laying into his movies, my kudos to Trey Parker and Matt Stone's ridiculing of Bay in Team America, a small potshot during a National Treasure review, a comparison to Joel Schumacher in the Phantom of the Opera review, and finally, earlier this year, when I talk about how much I hate the TD Waterhouse ads.

Now that that's out of the way, I can start talking about this movie, in which I drew comparisons to Gattaca, The Truman Show, Logan's Run, The Running Man, The Matrix, Minority Report, The Fugitive, and The Blue Lagoon while watching it. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) is a man who wakes up every day in a technological fortress, where computers give him instructions on where to go and what to eat, along with a whole bunch of other automatons who all live to one day be selected to go to The Island. The Island is Heaven, and of course, since we're talking about movies and sci-fi, it doesn't exist (Here's another potshot from Steve Buscemi when asked by McGregor, "What is God?" "He's that guy that when you ask for something you really want, he ignores you"). Surprisingly, however, there are a lot of conservative views in the movie--on topics like cloning and in one obvious scene, abortion.

Anyway, Lincoln has these bad dreams, and he starts questioning the establishment, and he starts investigating, and finds out some seriously heinous stuff. He has a friend, the gorgeous Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johannson, all dolled up), who is all excited about being chosen for The Island, but after he finds out the truth he wisks her away to the outside world. An evil doctor, Merrick (Sean Bean, playing God), must stop them from intermingling too much on the outside, lest the secrets of his digital underground be released, and so he hires a bounty hunter Albert Laurent (the awesome Djimon Hounsou) to capture them. Meanwhile, Lincoln and Jordan, with help from McCord (Buscemi), look to unearth more secrets about who they really are.

And let me say, Michael Bay constructs a chase sequence during this that is so filled with danger and excitement, it rivals the best of the year or any that you'll ever see. To harken back to Bad Boys II, the ridiculous chase scene on the freeway where all sorts of debris falls around from a truck and somehow the heroes dodge it all--well, now our heroes are on the truck, making the debris fall, and the results are spectacular. Bay still is a motion freak, though, and he can't seem to stop moving the camera during scenes already filled to the brim with motion--in one scene, the camera is on Hounsou, and the camera quick zooms in and out, shakes, and so on, like The Rock did in its momentous chase scene. This time, it works a little better, but I wish he'd just train the camera on his subject and look for another interesting way to film other than that.

Beyond that scene, there are many other nice action sequences, although they are by no means perfect. Once again, due to Bay's motion, we lose characters and their spatial relationships, but they don't harm the movie, they just keep it from being better. The story is crisper than any of Bay's previous movies, which helps (hard to believe that "Alias" creator J.J. Abrams helped write Armageddon, but that movie was obviously taken over by the big-headed producers). A great performance comes from McGregor, and during a major plot point (you'll know what I mean--I won't spoil it for you) his acting is some of the best you've ever seen from him. And boy, do I love Scarlett Johansson. She's really nothing more than eye-candy here, but she does a hell of a lot more than any heroine in a Bruckheimer movie, or for that matter, all the Bay movies combined.

This is a good popcorn flick. Not like Fantastic Four, which is being lauded as such. Is it true...could it be? Yes, a fine Michael Bay film. There, I've said it.

Sidenote--this looks like yet another Dreamworks/Regal bout as my theatre is only getting 1 print of this film. So, once again, the studio and the chain can't agree on terms. This would be the third time by my count, after Galaxy Quest, The Ring Two, and now The Island.


At 7/21/2005 07:39:00 AM, Blogger NLock said...

As I read your post, an overblown Hans Zimmer score was tracing through my thoughts. But Hans Zimmer must have been too busy to have a hand in this one, eh? Too busy scoring for Pirates 3 and everybody else's movie in Hollywood?

Check out review of this one where Dustin Putman blames Bruckheimer for everything that is Bay, calling Bruckheimer "creative poison". Then there's James Bardinelli who compares Scorsese and Bay..."Scorceses is steak and Bay is McDonald's."

I do like the promo pictures of Scarlett Johansson getting ready to shoot...something...

At 7/21/2005 11:59:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

The movie is scored by Steve Jablonsky--he certainly gets a Zimmer feel, but the score is particularly good here. With Zimmer, you'd have some heavy horns accompanied by a faint chorus in the background going, "Ohhhhhhhhhhh" like monks or something.

At 7/22/2005 12:00:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Wow! A fine Michael Bay film. That is a bold statement. As you said, "The Rock" is a good movie, but that has a lot more to do with a tight script and good acting than it does with Bay's direction. In fact the majority of the flaws with the film come from his shaky cam action. EW once said that he directs like "He has a tiger shark in his underwear." I guess that about sums it up.

This has been getting some good early press, and Bruckenheimer not being involved bodes well.


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